The Valencian town of Canals, 66 km from Valencia, held its annual Feast of San Antonio Abad, the patron saint of domestic animals, with the burning of monumental bonfires in his honor to the cheers of the crowds who gather for the event. Valencians love for fire and noise is well known, primarily because of Fallas, but this festivity is quite popular, especially due to having the World Record Guinness of the tallest bonfire (25 m high).
The origins of the celebration goes back to 1748 when an earthquake devastated many of the surrounding towns but left Canals untouched. People claimed they had been protected by San Antonio Abad, who became Canals’ patron saint. ). Construction on the bonfires begins in early January and the final cone-shaped creation measures 20 meters high and 12 meters in diameter, topped with orange branches and covered in pine. However, the bonfire is not the only popular attraction of the festivities in Canals.
The bonfire starts to be build December 7th (the eve of the Immaculate Conception) and it’s finished on January 15th. The inhabitants take the first trunks and branches to Plaza Mayor by horses bedecked. This ceremony is called Entrà de la primera soca. In the following days, the inhabitants add firewood in the bonfire until the construction is completed.
After almost 400 years, the Patron Saint festivities are still celebrated each year from 16 to 18 January. On the 16th evening there is the famous burning of the huge bonfire (called cremà). On the 17th the feast day of the patron is celebrated and on the 18th there a traditional feast called Dels Parells. On this day the neighbours invite visitors to taste their typical food, sweets, small pastries and a multitudinous lunch with the typical Valencian dish Arroz al horno (oven-baked rice There is also a procession held the day after the bonfire burning, “la crema”, and a children’s parade with sweets and music. The festivities end with the parade known as Festa dels Parells and the blessing of pets.
Just as any other Valencia festitivy, this one is worthy of visiting. When you are there, you’ll be able to witness who proud people are of their patron saint and how much they enjoy this holiday. Don’t miss this peculiar festivity and let yourself be swept away by the spirit of the season in Canals.